Full Time
7:35pm Sat June 12, 2021
Round 14 - GIO Stadium Canberra - Crowd: 9608

Round 14: Canberra v Brisbane preview

Former glamour clubs to thrash it out in the nation's capital

For former teammates Kevin Walters and Ricky Stuart, Canberra's breakthrough premiership in 1989 must seem like a world away. Back when the Raiders and Broncos dominated, Stuart would go on to finish with three titles in the lime green, while Walters returned home to win another five as a Bronco.

Now at the polar opposite of the halcyon days, the 13th placed Raiders host the 15th ranked Broncos in what promise to be icy conditions this Saturday. And with only seven wins between them from 25 starts, the loser wouldn't look out of place if they continued south for the upcoming ski season.

It was only three weeks ago when Walters sparked a Brisbane revival. But the forward punch that rolled the Roosters in the season's biggest upset vanished quicker than it appeared.

Last week's 52-24 humiliation to St George Illawarra in the absence of Origin stars Xavier Coates and Payne Haas saw a return of old habits. A six-point lead nearing the break quickly became a halftime deficit that rapidly escalated into 34 unanswered points.

The return of Karmichael Hunt for the first time since 2009 could lift the Broncos' spirits, but with Canberra's Josh Papalii back from suspension, the best of Matthew Lodge and Tom Flegler will be a non-negotiable for Brisbane to be a serious threat.

But if the Broncos need anything, it's confidence. And if Walters stumbles across some, then Stuart should join the same queue. If not for a narrow escape against the last placed Bulldogs during Magic Round, the Raiders would have dropped eight straight.

Talk of disharmony and uncertainty among the playing group has eroded the club's tenacity. A once proud defence has conceded an average of 30 points a week over the past two months including 20 after halftime.

At last season's midpoint the Raiders faced a similar predicament. Plagued by a mounting injury toll, Stuart continually backed his squad and the worm slowly turned in what proved to be a thrilling finals run.

Now with the Dragons and Titans to follow in the coming weeks with minimal Origin impact, a victory this week could position the Raiders for another finals tilt.

Last meeting: Round 14 2020 - Raiders 36 Broncos 8

Who to watch: Despite an abundance of young playmakers on the rise, it'll be more a case of Back to the Future in Canberra on Saturday night.

Sam Williams will trot out for his third appearance this season. Now in his 11th season in the top grade, the Raiders' Mr Fix-it offers reliable cover for the homesick George Williams and will guide the team in what will be his 98th NRL match.

Since Ricky Stuart handed him his first NRL jumper at Cronulla back in 2010, Albert Kelly has lived the highs and lows. Now three games into his NRL revival following six seasons in the Super League, the 30-year-old continues to surprise. In an outfit screaming for direction, the classy half has straightened Brisbane's attack and alongside his four try assists continues to create doubt off the boot.

The favourite: The Raiders are short priced favourites to make it three straight against Brisbane in the nation's capital.

My tip: Just like night follows day, you can bet this one will be in the balance when the halftime hooter sounds. But given both sides' propensity for a collapse, what happens next is anyone's guess. I'm tipping the week off will do the Raiders the world of good, and they should bolt home. Canberra by 22.